A short walk from Strawberry Fields: the house where Lennon grew up is given to the nation

John Lennon called it a "nice semi-detached place with doctors and lawyers living around" but yesterday 251 Menlove Avenue officially became what Beatles fans have long considered it to be – a shrine to his song-writing talents.

The Mendips, the house in suburban Liverpool where the musician spent his formative years with his Aunt Mimi, was opened to the public for the first time, having been bought by Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and donated to the National Trust.

The home in Woolton, where Lennon often practised guitar on the front porch, had previously been an unofficial stop on the itinerary of Beatles enthusiasts visiting the band's home city. Up to 250 visitors a day would crowd around the property, much to the discomfort of the private owner, whose son decided to sell it two years ago after his father died.

The house, which Lennon lived in from the age of five to 23 and where he and Paul McCartney composed "Please Please Me", was bought for about £150,000 on the orders of Ms Ono.

Speaking at the house yesterday, she said: "When John's house came up for sale I wanted to preserve it for the people of Liverpool, and John Lennon and Beatles fans all over the world. It's so magic to be here. The house resonates with a special atmosphere. It was where many of John's songs that we now hold so dear were born."

The National Trust, which already runs a second Beatles childhood home, the council house where Paul McCartney grew up, was initially reluctant to add a modest Liverpool semi to its portfolio. But once offered the Mendips free, the heritage body restored the house to how it would have looked during Lennon's 18 years there.

Anyone expecting a touch of the Sixties psychedelia with the which Beatles eventually became associated will be disappointed. The house has been furnished fully in keeping with Lennon's verdict on it as a middle-class home for the sole middle-class Beatle.

In an interview, he said: "It was a nice semi-detached place with a small garden and doctors and lawyers and that ilk living around. I was a nice, clean-cut suburban boy and, in the class system, that was about half a niche higher class than Paul, George and Ringo who lived in council houses." The closest the property gets to Lennon's musical life is an Elvis poster on his bedroom wall and some singles by "the King".

Lennon moved to the Mendips, which already carries a blue plaque underlining its status, to live with his aunt after the separation of his parents, Alfred and Julia. Among the places where he would go to play was the grounds of a nearby children's home, Strawberry Fields.

Those hoping to turn up and visit the Mendips in the same manner as a National Trust country home will be frustrated. Access to the house is only possible by joining a minibus tour of both Beatles' houses at a cost of £10 per adult.

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